New Zealand officials announced that they will be easing coronavirus-related measures and restrictions, including lockdowns, in exchange for a new strategy that will accept living with the infection starting Dec. 2.
Worldwide, the country has implemented one of the strictest lockdowns under its "zero COVID" policy. On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that they will drop the policy and allow businesses and vaccinated individuals more freedom when going out in public.
New Zealand's New Strategy
New Zealand officials will implement the new policy starting on Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m. with the country's prime minister acknowledging that the Delta variant was here to stay. Ardern said that the painful truth was that the Delta variant of the coronavirus was not going away. However, she argued that the country was well-equipped to tackle the infection because of the high vaccination rates and safety measures.
Roughly 83% of New Zealand's population has already been fully vaccinated and officials said they will be implementing a new "traffic light" system based on individuals' vaccine passports. The policy will rate regions in the country based on red, yellow, and green colors, The Hill reported.
Despite its effective fight against the coronavirus pandemic, recent issues have made it difficult for New Zealand authorities to completely stomp out the virus amid the Delta variant. A recent surge resulted in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, being placed in lockdown for more than 90 days.
The three color-tier system will place each region in the country into a group depending on their level of exposure to the coronavirus infection and their vaccination rates. Authorities opted to put Auckland, which is at the center of the recent outbreak, initially at red.
New Zealand officials previously announced that they would be ending the lockdowns and implementing the new policy once they get at least 90% vaccination rates. The country's effective strategy has allowed it to contain the virus and only have about 7,000 reported cases since the health crisis began while only suffering 39 deaths, NBC News reported.
Fight Against the Coronavirus
The easing of coronavirus-related restrictions in Auckland will allow bars, restaurants, and gyms to reopen in December. However, customers will still be required to show proof that they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus infection.
Ardern's announcement removed the last coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions in Auckland that started in August. It also marks the beginning of the country's new policy implementation that will require citizens to be fully vaccinated if they want to participate in anything out in public, including getting a haircut and watching a concert.
The 90% goal was announced by Ardern last month and was an ambitious target in the country due to its relatively low vaccination rates compared to other well-developed nations. The 83% fully vaccinated residents are those aged 12 and older and do not show the lower numbers in some health districts that only have roughly 73%.
In recent weeks, the New Zealand government was faced with an increasing number of protests against vaccination requirements and pandemic restrictions. Since winning in a landslide election more than a year ago, opinion polls have shown that support for Ardern and her government has started to slip, the Associated Press reported.